Friday, 8 December 2017

What's Popular at Abbey's in Christmas 2017

Lindy Jones: "Abbey’s is known for its wide range of nonfiction, and our customers tend to gravitate towards less obvious titles. Crime fiction traditionally also sells well for us."

You can always sit down with a cuppa and look through our Summer Reading Catalogue.

There are plenty of books that will sell nicely this year, so choosing bestsellers isn’t so obvious. Some that will probably rise above the others include:

Vanessa Berry (Giramondo)
This engaging book follows the tracks of vanished and vanishing histories, particularly in the ordinary and overlooked suburbs, and celebrates both Indigenous and European landscape.

Catherine Nixey (Macmillan)
The largely unknown story of how a militant religion comprehensively and deliberately extinguished the teachings of the Classical world, ushering in centuries of unquestioning adherence to 'one true faith'.

Sinclair McKay (Hachette)
Do you fancy finding out if you have a talent for morse code? Or discovering whether your crossword hobby might have seen you recruited into the history books? If so, and you're a Bletchley Park history buff or a fan of the GCHQ Quiz Book, then this is the book for you.

Oliver Sacks (Picador)
Sacks examines questions of memory, time, and consciousness. How do we think, how do we remember? Do different individuals have different speeds or ways of thinking? Is memory reliable? 

John le Carré (Viking)
This is the first le Carré novel in over twenty-five years to feature George Smiley, and is classic le Carré - a period all his fans have been waiting for him to revisit. Not to be missed.

Mel Gooding, David Mabberley, Joe Studholme (Thames & Hudson)
With excellent commentaries on the specimens and their place in botany, as well as general text about the voyage and Bank’s achievements, this is a magnificent, desirable and outstanding book.



As for surprise sellers, in a way we are never surprised at what our customers buy! They might seem quirky to other bookshops but relatively normal for Abbey’s.

George Bradshaw (Bloomsbury)
This is not a ‘new’ book in any sense of the word, but it taps into history, nostalgia and quirkiness. Deserves a place on the bookshelf of any traveller, railway enthusiast, historian or anglophile. 

Tim Marshall (Elliott & Thompson)
Go on, resist that title! A fascinating and clearly written book about geopolitics that appeals to the thoughtful reader.

Eleanor Brown (Ed.) (Putnam)
Certain cities always sell at Abbey's: Rome, Pompeii, Istanbul, Jerusalem - and Paris.

Alfred Posamentier et al (Prometheus)
Another subject that sells well here, particularly if presented with enthusiasm and wonder (rather than as the chore maths was for many of us!)

Liza Picard (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Medieval history has lost some of its currency lately, but there are still readers who devour anything on the subject. The Templars by Dan Jones (Head of Zeus) is another history book that will be snapped up.

Niall Ferguson (Allen Lane)
Thoughtful analysis, deeply researched history and a favourite author for many of our customers.



But just in case you think all our sellers will be heavy and serious, there are some nice lighthearted or more entertaining titles that our customers will buy.

The new Alexander McCall Smith novel The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse (Polygon), Sulari Gentill’s latest ‘Rowland Sinclair’ mystery A Dangerous Language (Pantera Press), Richard Fidler & Kari Gislason’s Saga Land (HarperCollins) and the delightful ‘Baby University’ board books by Chris Ferrie (Sourcebooks), which are being purchased for child and adult alike! 


This article was first published in Books + Publishing Magazine.

Since 1968 ~ Abbey's 131 York Street Sydney ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ October 2017

I recently sent out an SOS to the booksellers in Abbey’s — I wanted a recommendation for a good non-fiction book, as a change from fiction. I received prompt replies and am now looking forward to some interesting reading. Siân suggested a book from a Russian writer who was famously popular in the Twenties and Thirties and whose work has recently been re-published and is popular again. Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea by Teffi relates her adventures as she escaped from Moscow after the revolution. Published by the New York Review of Books. There are plenty of notes and a list of Further Reading for those interested in the reactions of ordinary people during the Revolution, although when I say this I must also say that Teffi was not an ordinary person!

Greg suggested At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being and Apricot Cocktails by Sarah Bakewell, Lindy suggested Anaesthesia: The Gift of Oblivion by Kate Cole-Adams, while Dean suggested Ghost Empire by Richard Fidler. I’m going to read them all soon.

At the Existentialist Cafe by Sarah Bakewell Anaesthesia by Kate Cole-Adams Ghost Empire by Richard Fidler

In January 2009, experienced Australian journalist John Lyons arrived in Israel as the foreign correspondent for the Australian newspaper, together with his wife Sylvie le Clezio, a photo journalist, and his eight-year-old son Jack. They stayed until January 2015. He has now published Balcony Over Jerusalem: A Middle East Memoir describing these fascinating years. This book will disappoint supporters of Israel. In Israel, there is much to admire, but the treatment of Palestinians living in Israel and the expansion of the Jewish Settlements on the West Bank is very troubling.

Lyons finds he can write as much criticism as he likes in Israel, but when such criticism is published overseas, there is an immediate reaction from supporters of Israel. The reasoning behind this is that readers of the Israeli local press are committed to the idea of Israel and accept that certain things do indeed happen, but such criticism in overseas media harms the image of a successful Jewish state. There are plenty of people ready and willing to obstruct such reports. There is no doubt that Israel wins the media battle. The latter parts of the book are really useful in trying to make sense of the Middle East - about the struggle between Sunni and Shia, about how Hamas works and the aims of the Netanyahu government, as well as a bit of history. His most alarming conclusion is that before too long the Jewish population in Israel will be a minority.

A Balcony Over Jerusalem by John Lyons

If you’re feeling a little unhappy about the state of the world, I recommend you read Live Lead Learn: My Stories of Life and Leadership by Gail Kelly, former CEO of St George Bank and Westpac. She now has numerous other roles, including a continuing member of the G30 and the Global Board of Advisors to the US Council on Foreign Relations, director of Woolworth Holdings in South Africa, director of the Country Road Group and David Jones in Australia, Ambassador for Women’s Empowerment for Care Australia and Adjunct Professor at the University of NSW. With seven pages of interesting photographs, this book is full of heartfelt advice for anyone who leads a group, from a true leader. It is really unusual to find someone so consistently thoughtful and kind. You’ll feel better about the world when you read this memoir of a generous-hearted businesswoman.

Live Lead Learn by Gail Kelly

Keep well,


Since 1968 ~ Abbey's 131 York Street Sydney ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Lindy Jones' Reviews ~ September 2017

Lindy Jones ~ Miles Franklin Literary Award Judge and Australian Bookseller's Association Inaugural Bookseller of the Year 2011


Sophie Green
Taking place over three years, this traces the friendships and changing lives of a small community just outside the outback town of Katherine. It follows a formula - the standoffish woman, her misfit friend, the English rose daughter-in-law, and the outsider and the abused wife - all women needing to prove their worth in a male-oriented world. Together they find friendship and succour while attempting to find something finer (and more literary) in their difficult lives. And yes, while it isn't wildly original, it is an enjoyable, competent and satisfying read, probably best accompanied with a plate of scones and a pot of tea!

Robert Drewe
What better set-up in order to dissect attitudes, skewer pretensions and tell lots of stories, than a huge family gathering? On a hot November weekend at his newly acquired vineyard near Ballarat, barrister Hugh Cleary is hosting a family reunion to celebrate 160 years since Conor Cleary arrived in Australia. Amongst the attendees is his notorious rock star brother Simon/Sly, who thinks he’s dead and is the complacent host to Conor’s ghost; sister Thea, a doctor with a family health revelation; their father Mick, a die-hard Richmond fan still nursing a grudge about being made redundant years ago; cousin Doug, who was part of the team that sacked Mick; cousin Ryan, Catholic priest/ex-Afghanistan forces padre with a secret crush. Then there’s the strangely familiar teenager, tattooed and disruptive, who in a Puck-like way spreads mischief and spite wherever he goes.

With such a vast number of characters to choose from, Drewe has sly fun commenting on family, society and history. Sometimes a little stretched with so many characters, and occasionally veering towards stereotype, this is nonetheless an entertaining read, the family dynamics leading to many humorous set pieces, and Drewe’s descriptive powers perfectly capturing the landscape.

Sarah Winman
This third book from Winman is very different from her others (When God was a Rabbit; A Year of Marvellous Ways). There's no magic realism - something I love as a reader, though others don't - but there is the beautiful writing and fully fleshed believable characters that have characterised her work. I'll go so far as to say this is my favourite book of the year so far, and I don't really think it will be topped. In all ways this is a perfect book, from its narrative structure to its depiction of loss, grief, friendship, love and survival.

It's almost impossible to describe this book without giving away the plot, such as it is, but it is about a man who has lost everything he valued. Ellis works in an automotive factory, going through the motions after the two loves of his life died five years previously. He is haunted by grief and regret and the sheer weariness of keeping going when there seems to be nothing left to live for. The reader learns what he has lost, but we also see the first shoots of regrowth… An entirely believable and truly moving story, one you can go back to and read again and again. I have - four times now. I suspect I will keep this one close!

Michael Robotham
One of the very best writers when it comes to twisty crime writing, this new book has all the psychological dramas and hidden motives any fan could wish for! Agatha is a shop assistant, and she is pregnant. She is also fixated with Meg, one of her customers, who is also pregnant, but lives a different sort of life - one that Agatha knows about because she not only watches Meg very carefully but reads her mummy-blog.

Appearances deceive, because Meghan is not having quite so perfect a life as Agatha believes. Both Agatha and Meghan are hiding secrets, and as they come closer to delivering their babies, the story starts to become very gripping indeed… Told through both characters' voices, this is a compelling thriller, and as Robotham can do so easily, there are always more surprises even when you think everything is revealed!

Mark Brandi
When Ben is eleven, the girl next door commits suicide. A new neighbour moves in, and asks Ben to do small jobs for him around the yard. It's the late 80s and Ben has been brought up to be polite and helpful. Ben's best friend, Fab, is a bit of a tearaway, exceedingly loyal, and the victim of unacknowledged (though well known) domestic violence.

They do everything together but Ben starts to become distant, and as they grow older they grow apart. As the narrative switches in time, the reader starts to see what has happened and a chilling story is revealed. Atmospheric and gripping, with a veracity to place only someone who has grown up in a small town can convey, it is the sort of book you read in one sitting, but stays with you for much longer.

Melanie Cheng
This won the Victorian Premier's Literary Award for Unpublished Manuscript last year, and is of the high calibre you would expect from such a prestigious award. It is a collection of short stories, and the main theme is how people of different backgrounds try to find a place to belong in contemporary Australia. A medical student from Hong Kong meets his white girlfriend's country family for the first time; the Indian doctor who is targeted by an Italian patient who hasn't improved after his broken bones were set in casualty; the girl who finally admits to her Syrian background in a tourist setting; the Chinese grandmother made to feel burdensome. But there are also tender and perceptive stories about motherhood, loneliness and ageing. Sympathetic, clear-eyed and insightful writing.

Inga Simpson
Many people dream about making a tree change. When Simpson and her partner fell in love with ten steep acres of bush in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, they succumbed to its allure without quite knowing just what they were taking on. Within a short time they followed their hearts and purchased the adjoining block to set up their own writers’ retreat business, threw in their jobs and slaved – only for the GFC (and other factors) to drop them so deep into debt that their dream, and their lives, started to unravel.

This book interleaves natural science and personal story, description and reflection. Many chapters start with a particular tree found on the block - its growth and habit, the fauna it supports and its human usage - before flowing into Simpson’s life and labours. She learns to look, to see, and finally to recognise not only the trees on her property, but also her own possibilities and strengths. While each of her novels (Mr Wigg; Nest; Where the Trees Were) has shown a strong connection to land and nature, this book allows her to expand her concerns and observations, and to preserve and celebrate her trees in words - a fine addition to the genre of Australian nature writing.


M. A. Bennett
Greer has had the choice while her father is on an extended filming job to stay with her rather dull aunt or to take a place at St Aidans the Great boarding school. She's smart so it seems a good idea to go to the school, with its extensive educational programmes. However, it caters for an entirely different class of people, and she soon finds herself friendless and struggling amongst the privileged set.

But then she gets an invitation from the golden boy Henry de Warlencourt, embossed with the words: Huntin' Shootin' Fishin.' Thinking this is her entrée into the school's hierarchy, led on by Henry to think she is specially chosen, she accepts. It doesn't take long for her to realise that she and two others (also misfits in the school - the nouveau riche daughter of a tech king and the son of an Indian principality) are especially chosen, and that the hunting, shooting and fishing is for entirely different quarry than the animals on the isolated estate... A gripping, sometimes genuinely terrifying, novel - one that was hard to put down! Ages 14+

A. L. Tait
Gabe was left as a foundling on the steps of a monastery, and has known no other life than the cloistered and disciplined institution. Nor does he have any great curiosity about the outer world, thinking his life will always be ordered and neat - until a dying man thrusts a mysterious manuscript into his hands with instructions to take it to Aidan and no-one else.

Before he has time to blink, Gabe is swept up into a grand adventure, unable to return to the monastery, not knowing who to trust and on the run. Fortunately for him he falls into the hands of a notorious band of robbers - who happen to be girls with a mission of their own. A swift-paced adventure for readers 9-12.

Krystal Sutherland
Esther's family has been cursed, ever since her grandfather met Death's apprentice in Vietnam, and actually escaped the fate that was meant to be his. Each member has a great fear, and it will be the thing that kills them - her father is agoraphobic, her mother an addicted gambler who fears bad luck, and her twin brother can't abide the dark. When Esther is conned by Jonah, a former friend, and he makes off with her list of things she could potentially be killed by, it starts a strange and beautiful friendship.

Jonah is determined to help Esther surmount her fears, and challenges her to confront them - filming them as they go through the list. Unbeknownst to her, she is becoming a social media star… A likable and imaginative young adult novel, with interesting characters (including Death, who has a world-weary line of snappy but almost-compassionate rejoinders) and the stirrings of first love.

Pamela Allen
A new book from Pamela Allen is always going to be a treat, and this one is darling! A little boy and his mother pack a lunch, set out from Kirribilli to walk across the Bridge and go to the Botanic Gardens for the day. When they are there, they see an ibis caught up in a plastic bag, and with a lot of help, set it free. This is reminiscent of the well-loved Alexander's Outing and is a joyful portrait of the city with a quiet environmental message conveyed in simple rhythmic text and clean-lined illustrations - a book that will be enjoyed by resident and tourist alike!

Meg McKinlay, Leila Rudge
Once, there was a small rhinoceros who wanted to see the big world. And although the other rhinos told her how she had a good life already with everything a rhino could need, still she listened to her own heart and built a boat. Despite all of the others' doubts, she sails away and sees more than she ever dreamed, until she returns home to share her tales: and perhaps kindle the spirit of enquiry in an even smaller rhinoceros. With gentle and happy illustrations in coloured pencil and watercolour by Leila Rudge, this is a sweet encouragement to step outside the everyday and discover the world for yourself. Ages 3-5

Peter Schossow
Henry and his nanny Gulsa are on their way to visit Henry's grandmother in hospital. When Gulsa gets caught up on her phone, Henry, who is bored, decides to find Grandma for himself. After asking at the information desk and not having any luck, he sets off through the hospital looking for her, meeting all sorts of people from patients to doctors. Quite a lot of text and with illustrations that repay close attention, this is a sophisticated picture book (originally from Germany) with a simple storyline that may have the side effect of demystifying hospitals and how they work. Lower primary ages.


Bruce Whatley
Whatley is known for his simple illustration styles (Diary of a Wombat etc) or impressionist style (Fire) but this book is completely different. The inevitable comparison will be with Shaun Tan's Arrival as it is a work of graphite on paper, although unlike that other masterpiece this book does have text. Rather surreal text, which allows the reader to fill in the gaps and construct the meaning for themselves. Ruben is a small, almost stunted figure, living alone in a threatening city, but one day he notices another small figure slipping in and out of the shadows, and gives chase. From such beginnings grow possibilities of change... Will appeal to anyone who admires the artistry of children's illustration.

Emily Rodda
Quil Medway is an orphan who lives with her high-flying, loving but distant, aunt. Packed off to a holiday camp, 11 year old Quil gets the oddest feeling as her train goes through a small town on the other side of the mountains, and before she has time to reconsider, she gets off. She's drawn to an old shop, and when a cheeky dog and the shop's owner appear, it's the start of her finding a home and the real feeling of family… Told with all the considerable charm you would expect from one of Australia's best-loved authors, this is a lovely read for upper primary ages.

Scot Gardner
Sparrow is in juvenile detention, and on an exercise off the Kimberley coast when the boat taking his group back to the mainland catches fire. In a split instant and despite the fear of saltwater crocodiles and sharks, he decides to escape. Reaching the shore and eluding his pursuers, Sparrow has to survive on his wits and determination not to go back. As the reader follows him in his quest for survival in what could be a hostile and unforgiving landscape, we also learn the life that Sparrow is so desperate to escape, and that the wilderness doesn't hold as many threats as his past. Weaving in themes of survival, resilience and environmental awareness, this is an interesting and powerful novel for readers 13+

Claire Saxby, Julie Vivas
A blend of fact and story, this picturebook is part of a series of titles about Australian animals. It follows a little koala as he has to leave his mother's territory, and find a home of his own. In a different font below the main text, factual information is given that explains what is happening and why. With beautifully soft and expressive illustrations by Julie Vivas, this gently educational book is aimed at newly confident readers who aren't quite ready for a serious book full of facts.

J. A. White, Andrea Offermann
This is the final volume in the Thickety sequence, which has been one of my favourites! The Spider Queen is searching for the pieces of the first grimoire, and when she has them she will destroy the world out of sheer rage and spite. Kara and Taff need to find them before Rygoth does, but to do so will come at a dreadful cost. Kara must go back to the past to find the Princess who began the whole wickedness, and then unravel the web of lies and deceit to save those she loves, and those who trust in her. A satisfying conclusion to a clever series.

Frane Lessac
There are many A-Z books using Australian animals but this one is set apart by giving a handful of interesting facts on the featured creature (and by the distribution maps at the back of the book in case the young reader wants to know where they might find them!) Colourful slightly naïve and joyful illustrations show the animals in natural poses and simplified habitats. I rather liked that X stood for Crusader Bugs because the insects have a x-shaped cross on their backs! A book both useful and attractive, for ages 3-5.

Since 1968 ~ Abbey's 131 York Street Sydney ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ August 2017

I have been enjoying I’d Die for You and Other Lost Stories a collection of eighteen unpublished short stories by F.Scott Fitzgerald now published in a very fashionable pale green hardback with an interesting introduction by Anne Margaret Daniel. This is a book not only for Fitzgerald fans but also for aspiring writers. From letters Fitzgerald wrote to his agent Harold Ober they can see how Fitzgerald reluctantly adjusted his style to fit the demands of editors at Saturday Evening Post or Colliers, magazines which at that time published short stories and paid well for them also. There are photos of his altered manuscripts as well as photos of the man himself. Anne Margaret Daniel is a lecturer at the New School University in New York and has published extensively on Fitzgerald.

Her remarks in the Introduction and Editorial Notes amount to a mini biography. There are thirty pages of Explanatory Notes which, to me, just goes to show that Fitzgerald’s writing is now looked at in an historical context. This is a good time to remind you of A. Scott Berg’s book Max Perkins: Editor of Genius which has been reissued. I think a movie is on its way. Perkins was more than an editor – more a private counsellor and adviser not only to F.Scott Fitzgerald but to many other literary luminaries of that time including Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe. His own life was rather tempestuous also.

Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg

Howard Jacobson’s latest pot-boiler called Pussy: A Novel is not for everyone. It is a satire on a Particular Prominent Person and very funny. A sense of humour is needed as you follow the adventures of Prince Fracassus, heir to the Duchy of Origen and his tutor Professor Kolskeggur Probrius. Illustrations by Chris Riddell.

Pussy: A Novel by Howard Jacobson

We had a nice launching party at Abbey’s for a book about Ukrainian migrants by Olga Chaplin a member of a well-known family. It is called The Man From Talalaivka: A Story of Love, Life and Loss from Ukraine. A true story of a family cast off their farm by Stalin, sheltering from bombs in a Displaced Persons camp in Germany and finally making a new life in Australia. Very moving.

The Man From Talalaivka by Olga Chaplin

There are two excellent new science books for children (and others). They are Do Not Lick this Book by Idan Ben-Barak and Julian Frost. An amusing illustrated story about all the microbes on your skin. Probably best not to give it to a finicky child! The other is The Invisible War: A Tale on Two Scales by Ailsa Wild, Ben Hutchings, Briony Barr and Gregory Crocetti published by Scale Free Network and set during the First World War. The wonderful illustrations tell two stories - first from the view of a Victorian nurse aiding the troops and second from the view of gut microbes which fight to keep her body alive when she contracts dysentery.

Keep well,


Since 1968 ~ Abbey's 131 York Street Sydney ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers